During the Public Safety Commission meeting on Wednesday, April 6, the commission addressed recent events, proposals for emergency preparedness and the hopes to find a permanent impound location before summer 2023.
Although fire preparedness is near the fall seasons, as temperatures and winds begin to increase, public speakers asked the commission members when they plan to prepare.
Commissioner Keegan Gibbs responded to the comment saying at this time they’re not at high risk.
“In terms of emotional capacity, to be able to deal with fire threat, … there’s really only a handful of days a year that you really have to be super careful because high fire spread really only happens under really unique conditions,” Gibbs said.
For commissioner reports, Commissioner Brent Woodworth raised concerns on individual residents who aren’t making an effort in taking precautions for fire season by trimming their trees to prevent brush fires. Woodworth said he hopes to get support from the LA County Fire Department and the Agricultural Department for encouragement and enforcement.
“What can we do to get additional enforcement capability with the support of LA County Fire and of course the county goes back to the agricultural department, so that may be working through the Board of Supervisors, to encourage them to expand the staff and the direct job if the agricultural group in enforcing and going after folks that do not correct the problem that is pointed out by the fire department,” Woodworth said.
According to the Arson Watch website, 30 percent of brush fires are caused by improper use of brush clearing equipment. When wildfires and brush fires spread to houses, it is often because burning branches, leaves, and other debris are carried by the hot winds and land on the roofs. If the roof of the house is covered by wood shakes, residents should consider replacing them with more fire-resistant materials such as Class A asphalt, slate, terra cotta or other tiles, or metal roofing. According to the city website, brush clearance and removing hazard trees are important ways to create defensible space to make the home more fire-resistant and help firefighters defend the home. The City of Malibu provides free hazard tree removal to help residents prepare for wildfires.
For commissioner reports, Chair Chris Frost said he hopes to implement security cameras around intersections and shopping centers to help emergency personnel with investigations.
“I’m sure we all know about the incident that took place in Trancas (Country Mart) last week and I think that having cameras up probably would’ve been very beneficial early on in the investigation,” Frost said. “Obviously it’s a good time to move on (to) that.”
The incident Frost was referring to was the death last month of 58-year-old Inge Baumbach, Trancas Country Mart’s security guard, whose body was found on the shopping center premises.
Commissioner Josh Spiegel proposed to expand the Arson Watch and Sheriff’s Department volunteers and to create an ad hoc committee.
“We’re fully vetted by the Sheriff’s Department, but it seems like a wasted force multiplier for us to be sitting around and going out on weekends looking for fires,” Spiegel said. “I know we act as eyes and good witnesses, but if there is a way we can round up a couple Arson Watch members to really act as a force multiplier in our city, I think that we’d be much better off.”
Arson Watch is a volunteer program of Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and is under the direction and supervision of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Dueñas said they also have the CERT Team program, which is the city’s community emergency response team that provides basic training in safety and lifesaving skills to the general public. The City offered hybrid, remote, and in person CERT classes to the public during the pandemic. The classes were offered online, and an in-person final certification would be given at the end. Three people completed the online training, which was too few to be able to hold an in-person final certification. The Public Safety Team also conducted internal training with the official Malibu CERT Team four times in 2020 and eight times in 2021, totaling 225 hours. The City also offered a number of virtual trainings during the pandemic, including Public Safety Power Shutoff Preparedness for Seniors and home wildfire hardening.
While Frost supports Spiegel’s idea, Dueñas said the discussion would need to be addressed with the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department. Spiegel asked if they would be able to form an ad hoc committee.
“Whatever we could do as a commission and as a city to really value this I think this makes a tremendous amount of value to our city,” Spiegel said. “We have about 100 with good local knowledge ready and willing to help.”
The discussion for a permanent impound site was not on the agenda but was briefly discussed and continued from the Public Safety Commission meeting on March 2. At last month’s meeting, the commission motioned to approve Heathercliff as a temporary location but urged to form an ad hoc committee to explore a solution of a permanent location and hope to find one for summer 2023.
Commissioner Daphne Anneet said she hopes to find a permanent location rather than constantly using Heathercliff as a temporary site.
“Once you start using a piece of property for a certain use, it becomes sort of the default solution and before you know it, year after year it becomes our only solution, and I couldn’t support that,” Anneet said. “This is an ongoing concern, so I would second the request to search for alternative solutions.”
Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas said the impound site agenda item is scheduled for the City Council meeting on April 25.
The article has been updated from print to include proper CERT Training classes and achievements.